SwiftKey, our favorite Android keyboard, gets an upgrade Thursday which adds two highly-requested features: emoji and a numbers bar. The new features are available in Swiftkey 4.5 beta.
The addition of emoji comes just a few months after Google officially added the tiny digital ideograms to its stock keyboard in Android 4.4. Now, the same icons of food, smiley faces, animals, and more that you'll find in KitKat, are also available in SwiftKey.
You have two options to craft your message with emoji in Swiftkey. First, you can start typing any word, and if there's a relevant emoji match, it will show up as one of the predictions above the keyboard (Swiftkey uses that space to show words it thinks you want based on the letters you're typing). That means if you type "broken" a broken heart will appear, or if you write out "pizza" you'll see a slice. The app learns your typing behavior, so if you often include a specific emoji next to another word, such as typing your significant other's name followed by a heart, SwiftKey will start to show the word and the emoji as one suggestion. If you don't want emoji to pop up in your predictions, you can turn that feature off in settings.
The other way to add those little pictures to your text or email is to hit the return/smiley key in the lower right of SwiftKey's keyboard to show all the available emoji in the app. Emoji is only available for phones running Android 4.1 and up. If your phone is running Jelly Bean, you'll see black and white emoji, while the color emoji are available only in 4.4 KitKat.
SwiftKey's other addition to the beta app is a new optional number row above the letter keys. Before, numbers and other symbols were tucked away in a separate screen, accessible by tapping the "123" key. The new number row cuts down on the need to switch back and forth between both screens, thus saving you time when typing.
The new features are available in SwiftKey's 4.5 beta, an early release of the keyboard app that tests new features before the company pushes them out to the paid app in the Google Play Store. Head over to SwiftKey's blog to grab the free download.